NEW YORK, NY -- Thus far in this photo-finish Democratic primary race, patterns have been hard to identify and the accuracy of polls has been questionable at best. Fundamental to turnout stats-- and therefore election results-- are the deadlines and rules unique to each State's primary or caucus.
Be it election day registration, early and absentee voting, or open (or "modified") versus closed primaries and caucuses-- these are the factors that determine localized campaign strategy and how easy it is for the average voter to weigh-in. In fact, states that have progressive rules (New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Minnesota etc...) see 10 percent to -12 percent higher turnout than other states.
Usually States with progressive-style election rules and higher turnout tend to favor Senator Obama's campaign, since he drives new and historically disenfranchised voters to the polls. Yet Pennsylvania and the surrounding States of New York (Hillary +17.5, 19.9 percent turnout), New Jersey (Hillary +9.8, 30.2 percent turnout), Delaware (Obama +8.8, 23.7 percent turnout), and Maryland (Obama +23.5, 27.3 percent turnout) are not progressive and have a varied election turnout. What's more, nearby and demographically similar Ohio (Hillary +10.1 and more than 40 percent turnout) holds a "modified primary," which simply means voters who are not registered under either major party were allowed to vote after changing their party affiliation.
So, what does all this mean for Pennsylvania?
In the 2000 and 2004 primary elections, 17.9 percent and 21.2 percent of Pennsylvanians voted. Record turnout is on deck for tonight, especially since there are over 300,000 new and cross-over registrants. The NYTimes is reporting 4.2 million Democrats up from 3.9 million in November 2007. Those voters will likely chip away at Hillary's demographic advantage.
Who are these new registrants and who for are they leaning? Many are young, new voters at colleges and universities in urban areas but also sprinkled throughout the central-state Burgs. Media buying expenditures aside, the six-week lead-up to this primary-- ample time for retail and organizational bottoms-up mobilizing-- was Obama's proximate advantage.
At this point the polls are closed. Wr'll know soon who won. One thing is for sure: Hillary's best friend in Pennsylvania (even better than Gov. Rendell and the crowds of older voters) is the state's closed primary and inflexible voting regulations, especially since this is the state's first meaningful primary and more than 20 percent of the state population is between 18 and 30 years old.